To pass budget-related measures in the Wisconsin state Senate, a quorum of 20 Senators must be present. Because the Senate Dems have deserted their posts and are now fugitives, only 19 Senators are present preventing the collective bargaining measure to be voted on as a part of the budget repair bill.
There is an option for Republicans. The collective bargaining measure could be stripped from the budget bill and passed as a standalone bill without the required quorum present. This approach has been affectionately labeled the “Nuclear Option” in some circles.
But for reasons not yet understood by this writer, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald will not consider this option. The AP writes:
“But Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald says he will not attempt to pass any portions of the bill without Democrats present. The Senate is meeting Tuesday to take up other measures, such as a resolution commending the Green Bay Packers on winning the Super Bowl.”
Whether Fitzgerald is playing the role of an honorable statesman or is too timid to rock the boat is unclear. But what is painfully clear, however, is that the Republicans have an opportunity to force the AWOL Democrats to return to their jobs or face the wrath of their constituents for deserting the battlefield without puting up a fight. Moreover, the Republicans can pass the collective bargaining measure they’ve fought for uncontested. Fitzgerald has an opportunity to bring the Wisconsin crisis to an end without a shot being fired, and without the risk of a public backlash that will surely come if thousands of state employees are laid off.
On a brighter note, the legislature is moving forward with a controversial voter ID bill that the Democrats have fought tooth and nail against. The measure will require a photo ID to cast a ballot and Dems argue it will make it harder for voters who tend to vote Dem to cast their votes. Pity.
So maybe there’s hope for Wisconsin Republicans yet.